Know The Difference Between Deer And Elk This Hunting Season



Know The Difference Between Deer And Elk This Hunting Season


Be sure of your target this hunting season. 

We’re reminding hunters to be sure of your target and understand the difference between elk and white-tailed deer this hunting season. 

As Wisconsin’s elk population continues to grow, the chances of seeing elk in the field increase. Occasionally, elk can roam beyond their Clam Lake or Black River Falls management areas, so it is important for deer hunters statewide to know and understand the difference between elk and deer. Mistakes have been made during prior deer seasons, including hunters confusing antlerless elk for a large doe or a young bull elk for a large buck. 

How To Identify An Elk: 

  • Adult elk are larger than adult deer. An adult elk stands about 4-5 feet tall at the shoulders. Deer stand about 3-3 ½ feet at the shoulder. A fall elk calf will be about the same size as an adult white-tailed deer but will display similar coloration to adult elk. 
  • Spot the difference in the antlers. White-tailed deer antlers curve forward, whereas elk antlers are larger and sweep back from their heads. 
  • Look for color markings. Elk have a tan rump patch, dark legs and a dark brown mane. Elk also have a short, tan tail, matching their rump patch. Bull elk tend to have lighter body color than cow elk. Deer have legs the same color as their bodies, a white throat patch and a fluffy white tail. 
  • Additional markers. Elk moving throughout the state may have noticeable markers, including colored ear tags or tracking collars. These collars are fixed around the neck and are typically orange in color, sometimes with a visible printed number. 

See the differences between elk and white-tailed deer using our comparison guide.  

Elk In Wisconsin 

Once widespread across North America, elk were eliminated from Wisconsin in the 1880s. Thanks to the support of many partners and the backing of Wisconsinites, elk were reintroduced within the state in 1995.  

Currently, there are two herds containing a total of more than 500 elk in Wisconsin reintroduction areas: one in northern Wisconsin, including Ashland, Bayfield, Price, Rusk and Sawyer counties, and one in Jackson County. 

Elk observed outside of the management zones can be reported to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources through the Large Mammal Observation Form.